Moving the Ball with the Cisco Nexus 1000V

May 29, 2009 - 0 Comments

In recent conversations, a couple of customers have asked me why we made the commitment to invest in developing the Cisco Nexus 1000V. Basically, they were wondering why Cisco and VMware would spend the time and resources to create a new product that essentially competes with their existing offerings?So, both Cisco and VMware are heavily committed to the vision of the virtualized data center, but at the same time we both have understood, for a couple of years now, that we needed to address certain practical issues to see the realization of that vision. The percentage of production, virtualized x86 workloads in the typical enterprise environment is generally reported to be in the mid-teens. At the same time, the customers express a desire to virtualize a higher number of workloads and analysts generally expect the number of virtualized workloads to significantly increase in the next couple of years. The caveat is that we must be able to address some of those aforementioned problems. Typically, customers report problems in three major areas: security and policy enforcement, transparency for management and troubleshooting purposes, and organizational challenges. A recent survey conducted by Network Instruments at Interop reinforced this feedback: 55% of respondents said they were encountering problems deploying virtualization. Of that group, 27% identified problems from a lack of visibility to troubleshoot problems and 21% expressed concerns over enforcing security policy. This is why we created the Cisco Nexus 1000V–simply, addressing these impediments are table stakes–if you cannot do this, you are going to run into problems moving your virtualization strategy forward:

  • You need to be able to define and automatically apply policy at the VM level and have that policy move without manual intervention
  • You need to be able to manage you virtual environment exactly like your physical environment–same features, same tools, and single set of operational processes for the whole data center

One additional area that I will call out is the operational side of things, because this does not always get that much attention, but I think not having the operational side nailed down will derail your virtualization strategy faster than the technical issues will. First of all, your strategy will not scale if it is dependent on you network admins learning and using vCenter or having your server admins correctly interpret and implement network security policy. In other words, you hired experts for a reason–let them focus on what they are good at using the operational processes and tools they have developed and honed over the years–doing otherwise is asking for trouble. Second, you need policy-based automation otherwise your operational processes simply will not scale. If you operational processes depend on cutting-and-pasting a vMAC address from one window to another (or, more likely sending it to the network gal in e-mail or in chat or calling the network guy to re-map an VLAN ID), they are only going to take you so far. For many of our customers, they can get away with manual process right now because a relatively small number of production workloads are virtualized. However, if 50% or 70% of workloads were to become virtualized, the operations staff simply will not be able to keep up. Simply, the management plane needs to be integrated and automated across the server and network domains otherwise you undermine your ability to take advantage of automated features such as Distributed Resource Scheduling, integrate server virtualization into your DR/BC strategy, or do cool things like firing up VMs on the fly to deal with performance issues.So, there you have it–for Cisco and VMware, the Cisco Nexus 1000V was really about giving our joint customers the technology solution they need to move the ball forward with their virtualization strategies.

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